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"All three look a little insufferable. The stupid music and the "based on a true story"/"an unforgettable story" shots and the critics quotes instantly turn me off. But I'm in for most things Lonergan, even though the plot of Manchester By the Sea is clearly Baby Boom meets Good Will Hunting." - CharlieG

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Entries in Cinematography (254)

Thursday
Jul282016

Michael Mann's "Miami Vice" 10 Years Later

Please welcome back new contributor Bill Curran for a 10th anniversary look at Miami Vice

The major studio head-scratcher of its year, the ultimate distillation of Michael Mann’s brand of clean sheen noir, and the most authentically auteurist film of the aughts, Miami Vice was the movie offspring of a successful and ever-parodied 80s TV series that was nothing like the original. Instead, Mann unleashed a brooding and voluptuously pixilated peacock of a crime thriller upon an unsuspecting public

If only every recent remake had as much reckless spirit as this one did when it opened nationally ten years ago today. Though the film received favorable notices from top print critics, including a rave from A.O. Scott, the majority of reviewers (and almost all audiences) were simply confused...

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Wednesday
Jul272016

HMWYBS: "The Turning Point"

Bancroft & Maclaine reminisce in The Turning PointBest Shot 1977 Party. Chapter 2
The Turning Point (1977)
Directed by: Herbert Ross
Cinematography by: Robert Surtees

When The Turning Point is remembered today, on the rare occasion that you hear it name-checked, it is nearly always in connection to its status as Oscar's all time loser (11 nominations without a win). That "achievement" was later shared when Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985) met the same Oscar fate, entering the competition as a very big ticket and coming away empty-handed. It's surely no coincidence that both films are women's pictures. Oscar has grown increasingly wary of films about and for women over their 88 year history; that's not a mark on the films themselves but a stain on film culture and the Oscars. 1977 was in some significant ways, the very last Oscar year to be dominated by women. The sole "boys" movie up for the top prize was Star Wars, which perhaps also not coincidentally became the film which most Hollywood films aspired to be thereafter. Yes, 80% of the Best Picture nominees in 1977 were actually about women. Can you imagine it?!? That's a huge percentage which has, alas, not happened again in the 39 years since. Most Best Picture years since have been the reverse of those numbers, when in a more sane world it'd be about 50/50 since, you know, that's actually how the human race breaks down. 

Bronze. I think this is trying to be the film's signature image, but there are two many climaxes preceding it and following it to quite pull it off.

But now we're straying into Oscar stats when what we really want to talk about is this ballet melodrama and its gauzy prettiness. Worthy of 11 Oscar nominations? Surely not but that's not because of its subject, its genre, or its cast of accomplished women... 

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Wednesday
Jul062016

Visual Index: Working Girl's Best Shot(s)

Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Working Girl (1988)
Director: Mike Nichols
Cinematography: Michael Ballhaus

I wasn't fair to Working Girl in 1988. When it won the reader poll easily for coverage here on Best Shot, the old grudge flared up again. 'Why do people love this movie so much?' I thought. You see the Oscar race is often distorting. In 1988 Working Girl was a last minute disrupter with its Christmas bow, and I never forgave it for costing Bull Durham, Running on Empty, or Who Framed Roger Rabbit major nominations and prizes. There's no proof of course that it did -- but I believed it wholeheartedly.

But watching the film again, away from that distorting horse race, I could enjoy it fully without name-checking those films I held more dear. There's so much to enjoy all told. "It plays," as they say. It plays beautifully. Now don't get me wrong. I still wouldn't have nominated it for six Oscars. Six! But let's not return to the grudge and let's enjoy this mainstream bullseye and the cinematography by Michael Ballhaus, one of the cinema's greatest DPs. He's 80 now and still doesn't have an Oscar. He should be near the very top of Oscar's list for an Honorary.

See Nathaniel's 3 favorite shots and other Best Shot choices 'round the web after the jump...

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Friday
Jul012016

Halfway Mark: Cinematography & Production Design

We've celebrated the male performances and the heroes and villains of the year's first half. But before we get to the actresses -- what? foreplay makes it hotter -- let's revel in the beauty of Cinematography & Production Design. These five choices in each category are what yours truly, Nathaniel, would nominate if the year ended on June 30th. Please share your list of praiseworthy achievements in the comments. Movies are communal and loving them should be, too.

HALFWAY MARK BEAUTY BREAK
CINEMATOGRAPHY & PRODUCTION DESIGN
(January to June theatrical releases only. Disclaimer: I have not yet seen The Mermaid which I hear is an eyeful) 

Best Cinematography
If I had a ballot right now (January to June releases only...) 

A Bigger Splash, Yorick Le Saux
From gold dust sunshine to postcard istas, from the ambient light of off white seaside architecture to intimate dinners by candlelight, Le Saux is always caressing the already sensual actors with light.


 

Embrace of the Serpent, David Gallego
In glorious black and white but for hallucinogenic sequences, the sharp contrast photography does wonders to make this already foreign world look ever more forgotten and alien. And there's something about that inky water that makes the whole picture more suspenseful in its rowing languours.

8 more honorees after the jump...

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Wednesday
Jun222016

YNMS: American Honey

Murtada here. The best thing about this lackluster summer movie season, might be the trailers for fall movies. This week sees one of our most anticipated, Andrea Arnold’s American Honey starring Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough and introducing Sasha Lane in the lead role. The film is about a young woman who joins a travelling magazine sales crew, and their adventures as they travel the midwest, party and maybe fall in love. There’s also some law-breaking.

Let’s deep dive with a Yes, No, Maybe so after the jump..... 

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Wednesday
Jun222016

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Pt. 2: Firing Squads and Flop Sweat

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this Oscar-winning classic, Team Experience is revisiting the picture, tag team relay style. In Chapter 1, Nathaniel discussed our first look at George and Martha as they "welcomed" Nick and Honey into their home for a late night boozy marital bout. The first true bomb had just gone off when George realized that Martha had broken their "rules"... we rejoin the party now as George strikes back.

 Pt 2 by Daniel Crooke

My first wallop by Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was in my early years of high school after developing a formative penchant for emotionally explosive character dramas, iconic Hollywood movie stars, and Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. Once I learned of this film’s existence, I snatched up the first secondhand DVD I could find. It may have proved a bad role model; I shouted and scowled around the house for days, hunched in doorways with a clinking tumbler full of iced tea. The drama was just too magnificent to leave on the screen and, especially in this section, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton have so much fun spitting poison that their hysterical wickedness becomes infectious.

Through my green teenage lens of inexperience, I thought George and Martha should divorce immediately, move on with their lives, and leave this self-destructive cycle in the rear view. Jesus, can you imagine their Tinder profiles? Now that time and experience have obliterated my preconceptions of the idyllic American relationship, I can plainly see that they need one another to survive. They’ve got an arrangement in their marriage that – however revolting or sadomasochistic it may seem to the outsider – more or less works for them.

32:11 ....As long as they stay within the bounds. [More...]

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Wednesday
Jun222016

Best Shot(s): The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972)

Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Season 7 Episode 16


The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
Written and Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus 

When you watch a lot of movies you inadvertently end up drawing comparisons between films that you wouldn't have thought to put in conversation previously. It's as if you've accidentally become a guest programmer of a repertory theater or a local festival. Such was the case this week when I (not intentionally) watched Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) and The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972) nearly back to back and shook my fists to the heavens and cursed the name of anyone who ever regurgitated the lie that you have to "open up" stage plays to make them work on screen. 

Tears. not totally bitter yet but she's getting there.

Sometimes half the power of a text is in its site-specific constriction. So I went from George & Martha's messy drab campus housing with a bar (or at least its contents) in every room, to the stylish studio apartment of fashion designer Petra Von Kant which was paradoxically both over-decorated and minimalist, and both frozen in place and ever-shifting without explanation (Wasn't the bed over there in the last scene? Can these mannequins move around the room at will like the toys in Pixar movies?). I loved every second of both films and especially, perhaps paradoxically for someone who prefers short movies, the foreboding sense that there was no way to exit either film, ever, unless you accepted your fate and drowned in their contagious neuroses.

All it takes to make a play cinematic when it becomes a movie is great filmmakers. That's it. That's the whole formula...

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